Throughout the year I create a laundry list of all the things I will do throughout the languid summer days; long hours of writing, weekends at the beach, forearms caked in mud from tending my yet-to-exist backyard garden, and checking off classic after classic from my ‘good English majors have read these novels’ list.
But when those summer days inevitably come, they no longer come with the three months of boredom my childhood has trained me to expect. Instead, I drag a full work week, a pile of neglected writing, and an untidy apartment into the humidity that makes me feel more exhausted than inspired. Even moment of free time I am able to grab ahold of I spend ‘relaxing furiously,’ with the hope that after enough nights spent watching Game of Thrones and Veronica Mars I will magically build up the energy that has been misplaced along with my ability to feel boredom. “Just a bit more time,” I tell myself each day, still reluctantly eyeing the piles of unread books, still ignoring the empty margins of pages waiting to be edited.
Eventually, and without fail, each summer I give in. I slowly accept that summer is the time for relaxation and restoration; that it’s really Chicago’s slushy, icy winters when my writing gets done, when those classics slowly get read. And so I finally turn to that most relaxing and beach appropriate of summer reading materials: the Young Adult trilogy.
I loved Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and it did its job perfectly. Although it was most enjoyable to read on my deck with my feet kicked up on the railing, I could dive into it without hesitation on the bus or on my lunch break and escape just as easily into Taylor’s world.
The heroine of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou, is refreshingly off-beat. She’s an art student living in Prague, rocking blue hair, a tattoo of an eye on the palm of each hand, and a fierce yet petite best friend named Zuzana, who Karou fondly refers to as a ‘rabid fairy.’
Karou’s known at her art school for her wildly imaginative drawings, often beings who are an elegant collage of different animals — a female torso with a serpent’s tail in place of legs, snakes coiled around her midriff; a male with reptilian skin and swirling rams horns — but these beings are very real. And are very interested in collecting teeth.
Like most young adult series, a romance is the driving force of the plot, but it doesn’t make up the bulk of the action, acting more as a lens for the magical war waging at the heart of Taylor’s world. Part of the fun of the story is the way Taylor unspools it, rapidly peeling back the layers of the mysterious Karou, and her role at the heart of a story Karou herself knows nothing about.
Although I’d recommend the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy for any time you’re in need of an escape, it’s the perfect distraction on a languid summer afternoon, with a cool, sweet drink by your side.
ELDERFLOWER BLUSH LIQUER
- 2 cups vodka (80-100 proof)
- 1 cup dry vermouth (18% ABV)
- 1 ounce (about 2 ½ cups) dried elderflower blossoms*
- 2 peaches, sliced
- Pulp from 1 passionfruit
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 1 ¼ cups simple syrup (recipe below)
Combine the vodka, vermouth, elderflowers, pears, passion fruit, and lemon zest in a half-gallon jar (I split the ingredients and used two 1-quart mason jars). Stir to moisten everything.
Seal the jar and put it in a cool, dark cabinet until the liquid smells and tastes strongly of flowers and fruit, 7 to 10 days.
Strain the mixture with a mesh strainer into a clean quart jar. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid.
Stir in the simple syrup.
Seal and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Use within 1 year.
Adapted from Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits by Andrew Schloss
*Shout out to my local Chicago spice shop, Epic Spice for selling Elderflower blossoms (and at a great price, too!).
Makes 3 cups
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 2 ¼ cups granulated cane sugar
Mix the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and let cool.